One of my favorite kind of trips is the road trip. This summer my sister and I toured some places in the Midwest that we haven’t visited. We had a great time and discovered some treasures not so far from home.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, was our first destination. The second biggest city in Michigan, Grand Rapids has a reputation for great food and great beer. The hometown of our 38th president, it boasts the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. The high point for us was a visit to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park voted one of the Top 30 Must-See Museums on the planet. After wandering the many beautiful themed gardens (including a children’s garden), we took a tram ride through the sculpture park. You can read about this and other interesting spots in Michigan in Off the Beaten Path: Michigan by Jim DuFresne.
A word about the Off the Beaten Path book series. These are published by Globe Pequot Press, whose mission is to “save history for future generations.” There is one available for almost every state in the U.S. The books are all written by local authors and they are invaluable resources for finding the unique experiences in each area.
The Great River Road
Next we drove through Illinois to catch the Great River Road in Wisconsin. This is a National Scenic Byway following the course of the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. While the river is not always visible, the drive is always interesting. I would love to travel the whole 3,000 miles sometime, taking enough time to sample each area’s cultures and tourism. But that’s another trip! We followed it as far as Missouri this time, spending the most time in Iowa. The website has lots of information about the many attractions and interpretive centers along the way. Jamie Jensen outlines an itinerary for the Great River Road and other byways in Road Trip USA: Cross-country Adventures on America’s Two-lane Highways.
Dubuque, Iowa, is a true river city that’s full of unique architecture. Its waterfront features the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, riverboat trips, live music and a casino. We stayed at the Hancock House Bed & Breakfast, an 1891 Victorian house built by Charles T. Hancock. Beautifully restored and ideally situated, the house sits high on the bluff with great views of the river and the city. We popped in without a reservation to find the owner was planning a week of repairs and upkeep. But he graciously let us have one of the available rooms complete with a full, hosted breakfast. The room was charming and comfortable and was furnished with a pull-chain toilet! Dubuque and the Hancock House are mentioned in Off the Beaten Path: Iowa by Lori Erickson